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STAY (director: Marc Forster; screenwriter: David Benioff; cinematographer: Roberto Schaefer; editor: Matt Chesse; music: Asche & Spencer; cast: Ewan McGregor (Sam Foster), Ryan Gosling (Henry Letham), Kate Burton (Mrs. Letham), Naomi Watts (Lila Culpepper), Elizabeth Reaser (Athena), Bob Hoskins (Dr. Leon Patterson), Janeane Garofalo (Dr. Beth Levy), B. D. Wong (Dr. Ren); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Arnon Milchan/Tom Lassally/Eric Kopeloff; 20th Century Fox; 2005)
“Pretentious claptrap.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Marc Forster’s (“Finding Neverland”/”Monster’s Ball”) psychological thriller and would-be mystery story turns delusional through gimmicky storytelling, tricky camera angle shots, arty visual effects and turns the Big Apple into a spectral dreamscape to support its fraudulent Freudian psychological story. David Benioff’s (writer of Spike Lee’s “25th Hour”) script never seems more than obtuse and empty. Promising depth, it can only deliver some first-class performances by its superb cast of Ewan McGregor, Ryan Gosling, and Naomi Watts. The supporting cast tries to follow suit but there’s nothing for Bob Hoskins to do as a blind mentor to McGregor and likewise for Janeane Garofalo as McGregor’s shrink colleague, who has succumbed to stress and despair. This is a muddled effort that plays as a puzzler that remains unexplainable, not because it’s so lyrical or visionary but because it’s so poorly presented.

Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) is a shrink who takes over treatment from Dr. Beth Levy (Janeane Garofalo) of a troubled, pale complexioned, suicidal, gifted art student, Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling), who intends to kill himself in about a week on his 21st birthday on midnight. The shrink happily shares his crib in a luxury building with a once-suicidal painter/art teacher named Lila Culpepper (Naomi Watts), who was a former patient. Reality starts losing its grip with Sam upon the start of treating Henry, as he becomes haunted by his patient’s psychological problems and it causes him to venture out into a spectral-filled Manhattan landscape taking on Henry’s psyche to track down what’s true or not about his mysterious patient.

The film opens with a car accident and ends with a car accident, and the mysterious relationship going on between the shrink and his patient lies somewhere in between those accidents. Gosling reminds me of Adrian Brody in anything sad, Watts is an actress who can do no wrong but should try to get better parts than this one and her recent “The Ring Two,” and McGregor gives a fine turn as someone losing control and becoming nutty but never does anything for me to emotionally connect with him. The filmmaker has the mistaken notion that this dreary tale about depression and the attempt to communicate with a suicidal person if stylishly filmed with arthouse techniques, would also mean that it can be accepted intellectually without offering anything for the mind (the exception being Watts, on the fringe of the plot line, who nevertheless steals the pic in her sensitive way of knowing how to communicate with a fellow suicidal person). The reality suggests that this is pretentious claptrap, a long drawn out dream sequence of a flick that failed to thrill or make much sense.

REVIEWED ON 10/22/2005 GRADE: C-

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”